Five-Star Summer Reads

Previously: Bringing Down the Duke Review | Coming Soon: Women’s Prize Wrap-Up

Hello. Hello. Hello. You may have noticed that I have returned from my little Summer holidays. I hope you had a lovely summer, because I really did. If not I hope you hasToday we’re talking about our favours books from this past summer. I realise that my hiatus means that you may have missed my mini-reviews. Fear not, I will not leave you high and dry. Here are the books which I rated five stars this summer.


Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews

Emerald Blaze is the continuation of the Hidden Legacy paranormal romance series set in an alternate version of Houston, Texas where magic is power, and power is everything. Since this is the fifth book in the series, there is not much I can tell you about the plot. Somehow Ilona Andrews manages to keep knocking it out of the park with their plotting. They give us intrigue, and mystery and action-packed fun. I absolutely loved the ‘villain’ of this book, making it quite possibly my favourite villain of the series. The romance was just what I wanted from this book. They kept a good deal of angst, especially in the beginning that had me cheering for Catalina. Her dialogue after seeing Alessandro was back was just perfect. I can’t believe I am saying this but I think I love her even more than her sister, and previous narrator, Nevada. There was a great pull and push between the two of them as they’re both still hiding things. You can see the growth of these character throughout the books but also between the books in the parts that we don’t see, which keeps the eveloving. As you can tell I adored this book. These are books that I have to ration out because I’m keenly aware of the fact that I could read this series in a week. Coming to the end of Emerald Blaze without the following book on my kindle ready to read is heartbreaking.

Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey

I was in the mood for some contemporary romance and this was a book I almost forgot that I owned. Fix Her Up is an adult romance that follows Georgie who is sick of her siblings treating her as the youngest, and her brother’s friend, and injured baseball player, Travis. I did not have high expectation, all I wanted was for something to satisfy my craving for the genre. I thought that I would read this, enjoy it, and move on with my life. From the first chapter– from the first few pages– I was absolutely hooked. From then on I had to ration out the chapters just to make sure that I did not sit down and read this in one straight sitting, which was all I wanted to do. What is strange is that on paper I should not have loved this book. I don’t typically enjoy friends-to-lovers, nor do I enjoy falling for people you already know, or your childhood crush. And yet I adored this book. The setting was great, the characters were fantastic, and the romance was more than I could’ve dreamed of. If I were to be extremely critical, I do think that Kristen’s character was weak and that the relationship with Travis and his father just needed one more scene to give some propper closure, but I almost don’t care. I loved this book so much that I’m seriously considered re-reading it as a write this review. I honestly think I might have found a new favourite romance author because now I want everything that Tessa Bailey has written, is writing and will write.

The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock *upgraded*

The Devil All the Time is first and foremost a strange little novel. It is hard to describe succinctly, but at its core, I suppose it is a story about various people living in small-town America during the 1950s. Only it may not be quite what you are expecting. There is nothing quaint and pleasant about this depiction. It also is a story about religion. That much is also true, but it is not just about religion in the way we traditionally think about it. Donald Rat Pollock asks us to question our perception of religion, as he compares praying in a church setting to more private forms of prayers. This was the element I most loved about this book because I find religion a very fascinating topic. Pollock blurs the lines between right and wrong, saint and sinner, so much that there are some horrible things that happen in this book. It is full of potentially triggering content, and the author does not pull any punches. The book has this greasiness to it as we see into the private lives of people who are doing things they should not be doing, and how they make peace with God or another form of a higher power. While there is plenty of death in this book, the overtones of decay are evident even on the living. It is almost as though we are forced to confront our own mortality as we trudge along our own mortal coils. I wish he had gone just a little bit further with what he was trying to do because that would have hammered home his point. I imagine that this would be a brilliant piece of literature to study, and would relish an opportunity to do so because there is so much meat in this book to tear into. Overall, I enjoyed this much more than I was expecting and I have a feeling that I will be revisiting this book in the future, and hope to read more from an author who clearly has a fascinating point of view. I initially gave this book 4 stars, but given that I haven’t stopped thinking about it I feel the need to bump it up a star.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

The Kiss Quotient is an adult contemporary romance, that follows Stella, an econometrician who happens to have Asperger’s, and hires Michael, a male escort, to practice relationships. I got this out from the library, but when my hold came in it wasn’t great timing. I have a lot of other things to read and to read sooner than this. I almost returned it but by the second chapter, I was absolutely hooked. There was just something about both Stella and Michael that I had to know what was going to happen. Even though you can count on a romance for a happy ending, I knew that I had to see this one through. Their relationship was a joy to read about, as they both come to the realisation that they are in love in different ways, and have different reactions. I love the way that they grow as characters outside of the romantic relationship, and I wanted the best for them whatever happened. Stella especially was a person you just wanted to cheer for because she absolutely deserves the best.
I can’t speak for the validity of the representation, Stella has Aspergers and Miachel is American- Vietnamese, but it was engaging, interesting, and above all the chemistry between the two of them was brilliant. There was no turning away from Stella’s issues with intimacy, nor from the more intimate steamy scenes. This was just a really thoughtful and well-written book. The author had a great handle on intimacy, whether sexual or personal. This book really took me by surprise in regard to how much I enjoyed it, and I am so glad to be branching out into more contemporary romance.

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

The Bride Test is the second of Helen Hoang’s contemporary romance novels. This one sees a meddling mother arrange for a young Vietnamese girl to travel to America and hopefully marry her son, Khai. Khai is autistic and convinced that he cannot fall in love, and is unwilling to try until he meets Esme. I read The Bride Test in a single day, and very almost in a single sitting because it was just that compelling. In comparison to The Kiss Quotient it seemed as though Hoang switched perspectives more often which was beneficial to the story. The switches felt natural, rather than having to stick to a certain perspective because that’s who the chapter started with. Both Khai and Esme are very distinctive characters in their own way which made it easy to recognize whose perspective we were reading from. As I’ve said previously, I cannot speak for the accuracy of the representation in these books (specifically the autism, and in the immigrant experience in America) but it made for an interesting read. It’s especially notable the way that Khai’s autism presents itself differently from Stella’s (the protagonist of The Kiss Quotient). I already have the next book The Heart Principal and I’m already so excited to read it. I’m pretty sure I can add Helen Hoang to my list of favorite romance authors.


And those are all the books I rated five-stars (or 4-stars initially, and then upgraded) over the course of the summer. There aren’t as many as I was expecting, but these were all pretty special. Here’s to more five star reads as we move into Autumn.

Coming Soon… Women’s Prize Wrap-Up 2021

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